The Cronulla Sharks bounced back from their round one disappointment in spectacular fashion, defeating a valiant Gold Coast Titans side 22-6 on Saturday afternoon at Shark Park.
Despite the Titans commencing the match with more intent and determination than their Cronulla counterparts, the Sharks managed to grind their way back into the contest with brilliant attacking and defensive pressure. A penalty and repeat set gifted the Sharks valuable field position, from which they capitalised. In a sweeping right hand shift, winger Sione Katoa strolled over untouched – courtesy of a fleet-footed run and drifting long ball from Shaun Johnson. The notion of déjà vu was exemplified just five minutes later, when the boys from Cronulla mustered a successive try in exactly the same fashion. Three unfortunate fumbles from the Titans on their own line gave centre Josh Dugan the opportunity to cross for Sharks’ third try of the afternoon. A late try from Briton Nikora added insult to injury for the Titans, and sent the Sharks into half time with a 20-0 advantage.
Strong running from the Titans’ forward pack gave them the advantage in the opening exchanges of the second half. Following a repeat set, a quick play the ball from the Titans created the space for winger Brenko Lee to stroll over and reduce the deficit to 14. Unforced errors and unorganised attack from both teams in the latter stages of the game made for difficult viewing. Whilst the Titans generated a late fightback, it was the Sharks who reigned supreme and secured their first win of the season (20-6).
In a victory that many anticipated, the Sharks produced an impressive attacking and defensive performance. Their whopping 372 tackles and 1652 run metres are telling statistics. Whilst their error rate is one aspect that requires drastic improvement, the Sharks should take a large amount of confidence from this victory.
Arrow Meets Target
Despite the Titans falling victim to the wrath of the Sharks, forward Jai Arrow was tremendous in defeat. With a combined total of 254 metres, 27 tackles, 4 offloads and 1 line break, Arrow worked tirelessly to get his team on the front foot. Whilst unsuccessful on this occasion, Arrow’s poise and stability are required if the Titans are to kick-start their 2019 campaign in round three.
Whilst their combination was lacking in last week’s clash against the Newcastle Knights, Sharks Matt Moylan (five-eighth) and Shaun Johnson (halfback) certainly made amends this week – contributing 178 metres and 35 tackles between them. By utilising their speed to target the Titans’ tiring forwards, Moylan and Johnson created many attacking opportunities and had a hand in each of the Sharks’ four tries. Provided that they continue this combination for the duration of the 2019 season, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Titans Left to Rue Defensive Lapses
It was certainly a missed opportunity for the Titans, who were looking to make amends for their dismal performance against the Canberra Raiders last week. Four disallowed tries during the match ultimately proved costly, and resultantly gave the Sharks a licence to roam. When considering the size of the challenge that awaits them next week, the Titans will need to rectify their defensive woes if they are to secure victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in round three.
Cronulla Sharks 20
Tries: Sione Katoa 2, Josh Dugan, Briton Nikora
Goals: Shaun Johnson 2
Gold Coast Titans 6
Tries: Brenko Lee
Goals: Michael Gordon
Cronulla Sharks: 1 Matt Moylan, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Josh Morris, 5 Sione Katoa, 6 Shaun Johnson, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Briton Nikora, 12 Kurt Capewell, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Blayke Brailey, 15 Jayson Bukuya, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jack Williams.
Gold Coast Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Brenko Lee, 6 Alexander Brimson, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Ryan James, 13 Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14 Phillip Sami, 15 Moeaki Fotuaika, 16 Max King, 17 Bryce Cartwright.